In a lot of ways, asking an MSP to build a personal brand is like mixing oil and water. While I will stress the importance of personal branding until I am blue in the face, I am not naive to the fact that this is simply not a true fit to our industry and the common traits that exist among Owners and leadership.
It is important to know that just because it is not a true fit, doesn’t make it impossible to achieve. As a result, it will simply require more work for some compared to others. Like anything, to get someone to work hard at something, there needs to be some kind of goal to work toward. In my experience, an MSP must really see the benefits of building such a brand for them to fully buy in to the idea and therefore execute accordingly.
Here is my best argument as to why MSPs should consider personal branding as a pivotal piece to grow and scale their business:
You Already Have A Personal Brand
The reason that you are able to generate referrals and retain your customers for years on end is because you already have a personal brand. The image of you that is broadcast to your customers on a direct basis is likely the reason for this inherent trust. If your company is mature enough to have Business Developers and Account Managers, then the same can be said for them as they are now fulfilling part of this role and are primarily responsible for the human interface of your company.
There is a common misconception that creating a personal brand is about reinventing who you are to suddenly be extroverted and outspoken. In my opinion, the opposite is true. Authentic personal brands are about tapping into the human characteristics that your customers trust and amplify them beyond the one-on-one exchanges that they currently exist. To say that you don’t have a personal brand, is almost to say that your customers don’t know or trust you, which we both know is not likely to be the truth.
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Early Customers Resist Scalable Processes
Once you have recognized that you do in fact have a personal brand, it is important to realize why this matters. You may think that the only purpose that a personal brand can serve is to gain new customers, but this is only one of the many benefits. The benefit I want to focus on here (as it relates to scalability) is more about your existing customers and how they perceive your company.
I can tell you first hand that one of the largest hurdles you will face when growing an MSP into seven figures and beyond is that your earliest customers will often resist the change that is necessary to grow. When they are accustomed to having direct access to some of the core people at your company and then this access is taken away from them, it often leads to issues. Our company had to break customers free of our Founder in order to establish scalable processes and in some of the worst cases it created an all-out panic.
Customers Want Visible Leadership & Direction
Part of the reason for this panic is that customers want a visible leader. They need to know that at a minimum, this Founder is in fact still present within the company and is executing on the principles (and core values) that they have grown to trust. In our case, we were not as transparent as we should have been in this regard, which made many customers questions whether the Founder was still involved and if he still maintained his equity share. In their eyes, this was critical for their satisfaction, which is a problem we did not anticipate and struggled to navigate for several months as we attempted to overhaul our processes.
Now you can begin to understand the importance of personal brand when scaling up an MSP. Creating content that demonstrates visible leadership will act as a security blanket for customers to ensure them that your company still maintains its values throughout its growing pains. The person that they have grown to know and respect will not be hiding behind a curtain, but instead accessible at scale through social media and virtual formats.
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Content Helps To Foster & Legitimize Referrals
The reason that this is ultimately important is not just because of short term satisfaction but also to maintain the confidence required in your organization to maintain a steady pipeline of referrals. Dwindling confidence will inevitable lead to fewer referrals which is not what you want as you scale up your organization. Ideally, having more customers should exponentially increase referrals over time, not the opposite effect.
Broadcasting content that reinforces personal brand will not only maintain confidence levels, but it will also act as a vehicle for additional referrals to come in. Instead of passing on your contact information, clients can now refer you in multiple ways, such as sending your post to a friend with a few clicks on LinkedIn or forwarding a newsletter that contains your signature. It also acts as validation for the referrer, as it implies that your company is legitimate and that their referral comes at a low risk to the recipient. In short, the better you look, the better they look for having referred you, a goal that is ultimately worth striving for.